Penn State Football

Penn State football notebook: Lingering thoughts from Big Ten Media Days

Penn State center Angelo Mangiro poses for photos during Big Ten Media Day on Friday.
Penn State center Angelo Mangiro poses for photos during Big Ten Media Day on Friday. AP photo

Penn State football senior center Angelo Mangiro admitted he was “surprised” he’d only fielded two questions about the Nittany Lions’ offensive line to begin his podium session on Friday afternoon at Big Ten Media Days.

As soon as he said something, of course, the questions started rolling in.

One of the biggest unknowns this offseason is the open gap at left tackle, and the position battle between hyped junior college transfer Paris Palmer and redshirt freshman Chance Sorrell. Palmer enrolled at Penn State in January and has been trying to pack on weight and learn the playbook since.

Mangiro said he is impressed with Palmer’s development.

“I think he can be a guy that can help us,” Mangiro said. “He came in very raw ... he looks a lot better. He’s starting to look like a Big Ten tackle. It’s very exciting to see that, and see his development.

What may stick out to Mangiro the most about Palmer is his initiative and desire to learn. Palmer asked Mangiro if they could meet one-on-one outside of player and position group meetings so he could learn from the more experienced lineman.

“We watched the Spring Game over again...watched some game film, just had a nice conversation, laid back, I wasn’t a coach, it was just me and him,” Mangiro said. “Basically what we talked about was just body language of players, safety rotation...”

They went over anticipation of opposing players, right down to which hand certain players lean on before they make their jump at the snap.

“He’s very eager to learn,” Mangiro said.

Mangiro also shared a refreshing take on the game of college football itself. He’s been through a lot, as one of the six remaining players who stuck with the team through the Bill O’Brien regime, but football hasn’t gotten old for him.

“It still amazes me how there’s 22 guys on the field, and it’s a game, and all these people come watch us play. It amazes me,” he said. “The amount ... I’m always like, ‘wow, there are 107,000 people here to watch me run up and down a field.’”

Lucas confident about transition to safety

Safety Jordan Lucas is expected to make the transition from corner this season, and while defensive coordinator Bob Shoop has no doubt in his mind Lucas will make the shift look easy, Lucas himself credits Shoop for both his confidence and the confidence of the rest of the defense.

He said the secondary is the strongest part of Penn State’s defense — if not now, it definitely will be in the future.

“We have one of the best DC’s in the nation,” said Lucas, who loves the fact that Shoop is an “X’s and O’s kind of guy.”

“You listen to Coach Shoop and you might get somewhere,” he said.

Traces of Trace

Backup quarterback Trace McSorley had a good reason for not showing his chops in Penn State’s Spring Game, as was eagerly anticipated by the general public.

The answer as to why he didn’t suit up at signal-caller was finally made clear on Friday, during a round table session with head coach James Franklin.

Franklin said McSorley had a “close friend” who had meningitis, and the backup had to go through tests to ensure his health, and as a safety precaution did not partake in the Spring Game. Franklin said McSorley was good to go for the season (otherwise he would most certainly not be discussing the injury), and still expects the quarterback to back up starter Christian Hackenberg.

The Big Ten East has been elevated

As for the rest of the conference, the coaching battle in the Big Ten East will be one of the greatest in the country this season, if not the greatest.

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio and Franklin are about as diverse a group of personalities as it gets, and that was very clear at Big Ten Media Days.

From the quiet, cold intelligence of Meyer to the easy side-stepping of hyper-focused Harbaugh (he got through his entire podium session without talking about a single player, an impressive feat made possible by warm anecdotes of he and his wife’s trip to Paris and his admiration for mentor and former coach Mike Ditka), to the easy confidence of Dantonio to the steady energy of Franklin, the dynamics of each program will be fascinating to track this season.


Two of the best quotes from the event came from Harbaugh (of course) and Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook.

• “I’m not trying to create a buzz,” said Harbaugh when up at the podium, just moments before he pulled a planned prop — a Chicago Bears Ditka jersey — out of the bag he’d brought up on to the stage with him, which quickly went viral on social media.

• Later in the day, a reporter asked Cook if he thought both Michigan and Michigan State could be good at the same time. Cook’s casual grin slid off his face in a flash, and he turned away.

“I’m not going to answer that,” he said.